9/11's Lesson: War Doesn't Work

Historian Stephen Wertheim says two decades of failed wars have finally made America more likely to embrace military restraint.


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"You don't get to lose a war and expect the result to look like you won it," says historian Stephen Wertheim of the violent and chaotic withdrawal of United States forces and personnel from Afghanistan. "Yet some in Washington are denying reality, calling for still more war and blaming Biden for their failure."

Wertheim is the author of Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy, a study of how American strategists during and after World War II conflated military supremacy with internationalism. Wertheim is also a senior fellow in the American Statecraft Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He talks with Reason's Nick Gillespie about how charges of "isolationism" were used to delegitimize dissent in the buildup to World War II, why the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were doomed to failure from their earliest days, what policy makers should be focused on as we approach the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and why a fundamental rethinking of U.S. military and foreign policy is not only urgent but, after a radical shift in public opinion, eminently possible.

"It's remarkable how much the debate over foreign policy has changed [due to]…certain policies like the war in Afghanistan," says Wertheim. "My hope is that we're moving to a new place." He says that the widely recognized failures of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the low risks of war with China and Russia in the near term have shifted public opinion to embrace "a more general military restraint."

Music: Revelation—No Atmosphere FX,  Tristan Barton, Artlist.

Photos: U.S. Central Command Public Affa/Newscom; Peter Morgan.Reuters/Newscom.

Intro edited by Noor Greene; interview edited by Ian Keyser; hosted and narrated by Nick Gillespie.

NEXT: L.A. Finally Lets People Eat In Parking Lots

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  1. JFC

    War works, every fvckin time it is used without restraint. Ask the Carthaginians. Ask the Gauls. Ask the Native Americans. Ask the Imperial Japanese.

    1. Indeed, making war more humane is like putting boxing gloves on boxers and helmets on football players- it led to riskier behavior that resulted in repetitive stress injuries (concussions and dain bramage).

      In many ways we are seeing the Eastification of western ways of war. As far back as the battle of Marathon, the west has been obsessed with decisive battles, and destruction in detail. Whether you talk about waterloo, Zama, or even Houston’s victory at San Jacinto, you see generals obsessing over luring their enemies into a decisive battle.

      Contrast that with Sun Tzu’s style of war which renders war down to an elegant dance based on trickery and appearance. The East’s history is notable because it is almost always about a war of attrition- outlasting your opponent rather than destroying them and their ability to wage war. And it is the West’s decision to adopt these forever wars that has led to all sorts of misery. It is not what we are good at.

      1. Mmm…
        Yeah right.
        Tell that to Shaka Zulu’s enemies.
        They were used to crowds of opponents standing apart, throwing spears at each other and then going home for lunch
        Shaka’s guys got up close and stabbed the lot of them to death.
        Then went on to kill every man, woman and dog that belonged to them.
        If that isn’t destruction in detail I don’t know what is.
        Shaka was an African tyrant.
        Decisive battles definitely isn’t just a Western thing.

        1. “Decisive battles definitely isn’t just a Western thing.”

          I didn’t say they were “just a western thing”, so I’m not sure who you are arguing with. And it is noteworthy that for a counter example you call out that the Africans had a style of war that was not at all like the western style, and then hold up a single guy as a counter example. (And by the way, decisive battles are not the same as genocide, even though the former may from time to time lead to the latter.)

          The fact that the west and the east have different styles of war isn’t controversial. It doesn’

          1. (cont’d) It doesn’t mean that others haven’t tried to have similar strategies or that sometimes people in the west have forgotten that. In fact, if you look at chivalric custom, you see that in that period, western wars became much more eastern in style. You weren’t trying to destroy the enemy’s ability to wage war, as that would have meant killing his knights! And HORRAY you have 100 years wars!

            And if you want to see the West snap out of its slumber there, you can look to the Battle of Agincourt. It is not at all a coincidence that with Welsh Longbowmen slaughtering the whole of French nobility from a hill in 1415, chivalric code was pretty much dead within 20 – 40 years.

            1. And even during the 100 years war one of Britain’s best early tactics was the chevauchée, lightening quick raids that targeted for destruction French economics, including the destruction of crops, food stores and civilian manufacturing. Hardly in line with the code of Chivalry.

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            2. Isn’t siege warfare a form of attritional war?
              Wasn’t it highly developed in Europe?
              By the way:
              The Zulu – who’s kingdom Shaka founded – waged war in almost exactly the same way as the early Iron Age West and they never had any contact with the West at that time.
              There are plenty of examples of similar warfare in Africa.
              Be that as it may.
              You’re missing the point.
              Your premise is faulty.
              Decisive battles and Attritional War are general strategies that have been followed both in the East and the West for thousands of years.
              They cannot be used to classify the two regions.

              1. Actually, in it’s purest form, siege warfare is aimed at destroying the means for an army to fight. In true siege warfare the aim isn’t necessarily attrition of the opposing army but is instead to deny them food, supplies and reinforcements. In siege warfare the aim isn’t destroying the enemies forces, but destroying their ability to conduct warfare. Most the casualties that occur in a siege are the result of the besieged trying to prevent complete encirclement or trying to break out to allow resupply. A perfect example of this is the Siege of Yorktown. The cannon bombardment by US and French forces wasn’t aimed at reducing British soldiers but was rather used to cover infantry digging siege lines and prevent British forces from venturing out to obtain food and supplies. The taking of redoubts 9 and 10 weren’t aimed to reduce the size of the British forces, but were instead taken to complete the encirclement of British forces. Conversely, the Cornwallis’s goal was to slow the encirclement of the US and French until he could he relieved.
                The real aim of any siege is not to destroy the enemy but to force them to surrender.

                1. Siege warfare is one of the most gruesome forms of warfare, often because it involves the depredation of civilians. Historically it also tends to result in the spread of diseases. But a successful siege doesn’t require a large body county necessarily, the Siege of Vera Cruz had very few casualties on both sides, and was a fairly short siege. Once Scott was able to reduce the walls of Vera Cruz, the Mexican forces surrendered rather than face assault. The Siege of Chattanooga had relatively few casualties until after Grant successfully lifted it and was able to go back on the offensive. Even the actions to lift the siege, the sizing of Brown’s ford was virtually bloodless by civil war battle standards (38 union soldiers and 21 Confederate soldiers).
                  The largest portion (by far) of casualties by both sides in the Chattanooga campaign came after the siege when Grant, Sherman and Thomas assaulted Bragg’s positions on Missionary Ridge a month after the Battle of Brown’s Ferry broke the siege.

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      2. “In many ways we are seeing the Eastification of western ways of war.”

        This is mystification. The civil war remains America’s most important war and it was Sherman’s march to the sea, not a decisive battle that ended it. He’d already discovered that winning a battle wouldn’t break Southern resistance. For that he needed terror and devastation to break their spirit.

        “The East’s history is notable because it is almost always about a war of attrition-”

        Genghis Khan, most notable military leader of the east. would disagree.

        1. The Anaconda plan, especially the cutting of the Mississippi by Grant and US naval forces, also played a huge part. As did Grant’s refocusing the war in the east not on capturing Richmond but on taking the Shenandoah valley and on destroying Lee’s army in battle. Grant pursued Lee and despite the tactical stalemate of the Battle of the Wilderness and the outright loss at Cold Harbor, Grant refused to back off. This allowed him to drive Lee to ground at Petersburg and despite Grant’s hatred of sieges, he employed siege warfare (in a manner that foretold the horrors of the Western Front in WW1) to drain Lee’s army of resources and manpower. After Lee broke out of Petersburg, his only aim was to find rations for his starving troops and escape to combine his forces Johnston’s Army of the Carolinas. Sheridan’s lightning move to cut the railroad at Danville ultimately doomed Lee and resulted in the surrender after Lee failed to break federal lines at the battle of Appomattox. Lee’s only aim at Appomattox was to obtain the supplies there that Grant’s federal forces had captured.

          1. You’re right, but I wanted to make the point that Sherman had smarts to realize that it wasn’t the south’s ability to wage war but their desire to wage war that had to be extinguished.

            1. It was both. Sherman’s advance to crush their spirits and Grant’s campaign to crush Lee’s Army.

          2. And Lee’s reason for wanting to combine forces with the Army of the Carolinas was to stop Sherman and Grant from linking up.
            In fact the biggest advantage the Union had after 1863 was a single commander, Grant, who was responsible for coordinating all Union strategies. By coordinating the Army of Potomac’s strategies with Sherman’s march on Atlanta and subsequent March to the Sea, Grant was able to deny Confederate forces reinforcements and resupply. This is what Scott had foreseen as the needed strategy to the war in 1861, but he wasn’t listened too, even though Lincoln did adopt his Anaconda Plan. Fortunately Scott did live long enough to see his ultimate strategy bear fruit, but he had already been forced to retire before then.
            In the first two years of the war, the Army of Potomac and the Army of Ohio (later Cumberland) and the Army of Tennessee operated separately. The Confederates never coordinated the theaters of War and Lee was only appointed as General in Chief after Grant trapped him in Petersburg, which was functionally to late to make any difference.
            Without the Anaconda plan, and Grant’s Mississippi campaign and the successful breaking of the siege at Chattanooga by Grant and Thomas, Sherman never could have could have successfully waged his Atlanta campaign and thus never been able to start his March to the Sea. And many in Washington opposed his March to the Sea, but Grant approved it and stood by Sherman even as Grant lost communication with Sherman and had little to no idea how Sherman was doing. The only word Grant had of Sherman’s advance was from Southern Newspapers, and he offered a bounty to the soldiers of the Potomac for every southern paper they brought him. Arguably the capture of Atlanta won Lincoln’s re-election for him and his capture of Savannah helped Lincoln to resist pressure from some in Congress to seek peace.

      3. If war is becoming Easternized or Eastified, then what a libertarian foreign policy needs to be is a combination of the strategic and tactical ideas of Sun-Tzu applied in defense of the ideals of Lao-Tzu and his libertarian equivalents in the West.

        Sun-Tzu held that if you know yourself and know your enemy, you will fight 100 times and win 100 times. If this is applied to the Western war objective of total destruction of our enemies’ ability to fight, as long as our militaries don’t “burn themselves out”–Sun-Tzu warned against this–then freedom-loving nations and peoples can have the best of all possible worlds.

        1. A prime example, in microcosm, of this is the Israelis’ destruction of Iran’s centrifuge to process and refine nuclear fuel for nuclear weapons. The Israelisdid this with Eastern-style subterfuge, with explosives planted a decade earlier, either by deep-cover Mossad agents or with help from sympathetic Iranians or both.

          If Israel had done this with Iran’s entire nuke-making apparatus throughout the entire nation of Iran, that would be the perfect storm blend of East and West, both attrition and lightning-fast destruction of a well-deserved target.

    2. Yeah, it’s a good thing Germany exercised restraint during World War 2 or we might not have beat them.

    3. “Ask the Imperial Japanese.”

      Don’t ask the Americans. Fighting without restraint is the last thing they want to do. Why fight without restraint when you can bicker over issues like kneeling during the national anthem, transexuals and their toilets etc.

  2. War doesn’t work. Ask the Native Americans or the Japanese or the Germans and so many others. it does work when leaders allow it to work but forever wars is good for the pocket books and politicians.

    1. Native Americans waited too long to stop the white devil invasion.
      France and England waited too long to stop Hitler; should have stood up to him when he moved into the Rhineland. One may conclude that is actually the hesitancy on the part of good folks to go to war that allows evil folks to start them. Maybe there’s a lesson here about not keeping silent when the totalitarian Left starts in with its attacks on individual liberties.

      1. Well stated and I will give one caveat for the Native Americans considering if the disease Europeans brought over hadn’t killed 90% of the population before enough Europeans had arrived they may have never been conquered in the first place. even at that is still took occupying the continent for a couple of hundred years. the Native American tragedy is the U.S Holocaust.

        1. fuck you and the indians

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        2. I hate the usage of “Native American”. I am a native American. I was born here. America gets it’s name after 1507. Did the aborigines have awareness of a landmass or a name for it? If Indian is out how is being named for Amerigo any better?

          1. Growing up on the Rez I never heard the term Native American used except by fresh out of college, ideological teachers (mostly white) who thought for sure they were going to save the Rez. As you can guess they rarely lasted long and left disillusioned.

      2. “One may conclude that is actually the hesitancy on the part of good folks to go to war that allows evil folks to start them.”

        Of course there are plenty of other counter examples, such as our adventures in Vietnam and Iraq- in both cases we intervened under the pretense that if we allowed a bad guy to get started here, they might steam roller on. Hell, WWI is essentially a global example of dozens of great and minor powers drawing lines in the sand and then jumping into the battle when they were crossed.

        The lesson for the Native Americans is the same as the lesson they had been teaching to one another for 1000 years: it is the lot of a less advanced civilization to be conquered by a more advanced one. The Mayans had done it, then the Aztecs to them, and then the Spanish to them.

        The same was true in North America- people often forget that North America was populated with many nations of native americans who all collaborated with the many European nations against one another. They recognized strength and opportunity as soon as the europeans were on their shores. But stone age technology is never going to last against proto-industrial age economies. *shrug*

        War should be bloody, quick and decisive. And we should not be ready to go to battle unless we are willing and capable to crush the enemy’s ability to fight. In Iraq and Vietnam, we were never able to do that because our enemies were Iran and the Soviets/CCP and we were not willing to fight them even as we insisted we were trying to stop them. The native americans lost not because they waited too long, but because they were NEVER in a million years going to be able to defeat the modern forces of Europe.

        1. I’ll go beyond that: War should be torture. Warriors should concentrate not on inflicting damage and killing, but on inducing literal pain. Negative reinforcement. Adversaries should wish they were dead, but not be allowed to die.

  3. >>>after a radical shift in public opinion, eminently possible.

    lol the very second NBC and (D) are behind boots on the ground there will be boots on the ground and spikes in flag sales and yellow ribbons on trees all over again.

  4. War works, nation building doesn’t

  5. “War is the health of the state.”

  6. “Historian Stephen Wertheim says two decades of failed wars have finally made America more likely to embrace military restraint.”

    Ken Shultz says that pointlessly denigrating the efforts and real achievements of our men and women in uniform makes America more likely to disregard the voices they hear calling for military restraint in the future. What are you trying to achieve here? If this effort is unsuccessful in chasing Americans away from libertarian ideas on foreign policy, may I suggest kneeling during the national anthem? Maybe you can get more Americans to shun libertarians by burning the flag?

    Imposing a democratic and legitimate government at the point of a gun was never an achievable goal in Afghanistan, but that wasn’t the primary objective of the war. The war was fought to retaliate against Al Qaeda for targeting our citizens with terrorism, and the primary orchestrator of that attack was chased out of Afghanistan and killed by our military. If the Afghanistan War was a failure, then why is so much of their leadership dead? Why haven’t they been able to carry out any further large scale attacks?

    God bless each and every American who volunteered in their successful and meaningful efforts to defend the Constitution and the rights of the American people from our enemies in Afghanistan. Libertarians and other Americans who care about their rights owe our troops a debt of gratitude, and plenty of us are entirely grateful for your sacrifices.

    The politicians, neoconservative and progressive, who sent our troops to Afghanistan to create a legitimate and democratic government under occupation (and kept them there for at least 10 years longer than they should have) did our brave men and women in uniform wrong because–despite their best efforts–creating a democratic paradise at the point of a gun was never an achievable goal. Let’s all hope we never seen our troops used that way again.

    1. Yes the war was won the nation building was the failure.

      1. Mere months ago, everyone from Biden to Pelosi was criticizing Trump’s withdrawal deal because the Taliban didn’t agree to protect the rights of women in the deal.

        They’d still be using U.S. troops in an unwinnable war to turn the Islamic fundamentalists that run the Taliban into feminists if Trump hadn’t negotiated that withdrawal agreement.

        That failure needs to be dragged out into the light and ridiculed, but it wasn’t a failure of the war. It was a failure of the politicians and bureaucrats who tried to use our troops to remake a culture.

        P.S. Using the police like an occupation army to change the kinds of intoxicants some people like to consume isn’t a winning strategy either. The legitimate purpose of our police, like the legitimate purpose of the military, is to protect our rights. It is not to remake the culture.

        1. so now we are comparing our police to a standing army? i actually agree with this.

    2. This is poorly said. The war in Afghanistan was won within 30 days. The Taliban was defeated, Al Qaeda was on the run, and bin Laden was in hiding. When Bush declared, “Mission Accomplished”, we should have listened and left.

      1. If you think this is somehow diametrically opposed to what I wrote, then you need to work on your reading comprehension.

      2. “Mission Accomplished” wasn’t accomplished until Bin Laden was killed. And it’s still up in the air as his Saudi financiers got away scot free.

      3. “The Taliban was defeated”

        It wasn’t defeated, merely forced to flee the capital, head for the hills, regroup and continue fighting. AlQaeda was hardly on the run. The terror attacks around the world continued unabated and they even established their own state. ISIS, something nobody but deluded fanatics thought about 20 years ago.

        1. The Taliban actually was defeated in 2001, in 2002 they even offered to surrender to US, lay down arms, but ties with Al Qaeda and join the Afghani government. Rumsfield refused and convinced Bush to refuse this offer.

          1. For the most part the Taliban was mostly quiet in 2002 and 2003, and many of it’s fighters had abandoned the cause, but Rumsfield insisted on a policy of total elimination against the Taliban, which reignited conflict in late 2003. Also, this combined with partially the US shifting focus to Iraq in Spring of 2003, led to a resurgence of the Taliban.

          2. ” Rumsfield refused and convinced Bush to refuse this offer.”

            It’s plausible that the US could have got most of that without ever having to invade in the first place. Taliban had offered to hand over bin Laden to some international body for trial, before the invasion. I think Bush et al were completely discombobulated by 9/11 and felt that blood needed to be shed to restore the nation’s pride and dignity.

            1. The offer is referred to alot by revisionist but it was never a valid offer. The Taliban demanded “proof” and set such a high bar that it would have been functionally impossible to meet. Hell, to this day even after Bin Laden took credit the Taliban still denies Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were behind 9/11. There offer to turn over Bin Laden was all a political ploy and anyone who took it serious did so because they didn’t realize how sophisticated the Taliban actually was. They knew the conditions were unsuitable to the US and offered only to try and influence foreign powers to remain neutral or to pressure the US not to respond militarily. That is why the US didn’t take it to the Security Council and instead called on NATO to enact Article 5.

              1. “The offer is referred to alot by revisionist but it was never a valid offer.”

                I don’t think the validity of the offer is at issue. Bush was determined to respond with some show of force to restore national pride after a humiliating attack. Had Bush been interested in avoiding conflict with the Taliban, he could have opened negotiations and made a counter offer if he felt the Taliban proposal was ‘invalid.’ Of course he had no interest in avoiding conflict and went for an invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, neither with anything to do with the 9/11 attack.

                1. That is pure revisionist history. Afghanistan was were 9/11 was planned, it was were Al Qaeda was based and the Taliban was allied with Al Qaeda and was protecting them. No, negotiations were useless as the Taliban had no real incentive to give up Al Qaeda. Fuck, pure revisionist history.

                  1. “Afghanistan was were 9/11 was planned, it was were Al Qaeda was based ”

                    You mean it wasn’t Florida, but Afghanistan? Talk about revisionist history.

                    1. Florida was where some received training not where the plan was put together. Big fucking difference. Dipshit.

                2. And Bush did give them a counter offer, give up Bin Laden and Al Qaeda or face the wrath of the US. He gave them a month to comply and they didn’t. Like I said pure revisionist bullshit. Bush did give them a counter offer. There was no need for negotiations, the Taliban wasn’t sincere in it’s offer. Hate to break it to you Skippy, but contrary to the anti-war fantasy, sometimes war is unavoidable. And trying to tie in Iraq is pure deflection. Iraq was a war of choice that was completely unnecessary, and has nothing to do with the war in Afghanistan. We had two choices after 9/11, continue to do what we had been doing for decades to curb terrorism, which lead to 9/11 or come down with the full might of the US military. Unfortunately, Bush, Rumsfield and Cheney, only did choice B halfheartedly. We didn’t send in enough troops, we didn’t seal the Pakastani border and we didn’t destroy the Taliban. And despite this the Taliban still was beaten enough to offer to surrender but Rumsfield et al decided to reject it. There was about 500,000 active duty troops on 9/11 in the US Army, and twice that with addition of the Reserve and National Guard, we invaded Afghanistan with 10,000, barely a full divisions worth of troops. There was seven infantry and two armored divisions, we invaded with less than a single infantry division (several different divisions were involved but only certain brigades and battalions from each division were deployed). Instead we relied on Special Forces and the Northern Alliance. We tried to avoid casualties at all costs and fight the war on the cheap. We never brought the full might of the US military to bear and we failed to seal the Pakastani border as a result. This allowed the Taliban and Al Qaeda to slip away.
                  We haven’t brought the full might of the US military to bear anytime since August of 1945. And despite this the US military remains undefeated on the battlefield. We still win the fight, despite having our hands tied behind our backs, but the government continues to lose the wars.

                  1. And don’t try to say the US military was beat in either Afghanistan or Vietnam. We were not driven from the field of Battle, we weren’t forced to retreat, we chose to leave. We could have continued to fight in both places indefinitely, neither North Vietnam nor the Taliban had the strength to force us from the field of Battle.

                    1. “And don’t try to say the US military was beat in either Afghanistan or Vietnam.”

                      It was a tie.

                    2. Did the Taliban force the US forces to withdrawal or face destruction or did we choose to leave, but were still capable of fighting (and winning all engagements)? Point to any battle were the Taliban bested American Troops?

                  2. “We haven’t brought the full might of the US military to bear anytime since August of 1945. And despite this the US military remains undefeated on the battlefield. We still win the fight,”

                    Join the club. No powerful nation has brought their full might to bear since then. Winning the fight is not enough. The experience of Afghanistan should have made that clear.

                    1. Yes Afghanistan shows what happens when we use only half measures as does Vietnam and Korea. Thanks for proving the point again.

  7. War works, if you are the portfolio manager for someone in congress that has invested heavily in the military industrial complex.

  8. Oh you can blame the neocon bureaucrats who decided that the democrats were a better place to keep the scheme going. That’s where they currently reside because they found the left’s authoritarianism much to their liking. But you will definitely blame fucking Joe Biden for this shithole. He voted for it, he didn’t resist it, and he fucked up the exit.

    Stop pretending Biden isn’t the worst fucking piece of shit president we’ve ever had.

    1. Biden is the 2nd worst. Top honor goes to Trump.

  9. And my fellow Americans will repudiate feckless politicians in the primaries, right?

    We wouldn’t vote for the same fuckheads, would we?

    1. No love for Kennedy and Nixon ?

  10. Historian Stephen Wertheim says two decades of failed wars have finally made America more likely to embrace military restraint.

    So the Reagan model.

    1. Didn’t we win the Cold War?

    2. Didn’t we win the Cold War?

      1. I’m more referring to long military quagmires in foreign countries. Hell, we bombed Khadaffi’s Libya after that string of terrorist attacks and the whole thing became a nice, quiet neighborhood after that. No need for a long occupation of nation-building and women’s rights campaigns foisted upon them.

        1. Sending our feminists over there should be punishment enough for them.

        2. Until Libya blew up a 747 over Scotland. Lucky we had Wrong Way Bush the first around to do nothing about it.

          1. Take a look at the timing of that in relation to other airliner losses due to US action, and ask yourself why we never overtly retaliated against Libya and Khadafi. Despite the killing of a few hundred Americans, and causing the bankruptcy of Pan-Am.

  11. why a fundamental rethinking of U.S. military and foreign policy is not only urgent but, after a radical shift in public opinion, eminently possible.

    Public opinion is an extremely mutable thing – Henrik Ibsen

    In the United States, the majority takes upon itself the task of supplying to the individual a mass of ready-made opinions, thus relieving him of the necessity to take the proper responsibility of arriving at his own – Alexis de Toqueville

    The public must be put in its place … so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd – Walter Lippmann

    No serious sociologist any longer believes that the voice of the people expresses any divine or specially wise and lofty idea. The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and cliches and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders. Edward Bernays

    what passes for public opinion in the thinking of official Washington, can be easily led astray into areas of emotionalism and subjectivity which make a poor and inadequate guide for national action George Kennan

  12. Short version: Ron Paul was right.

  13. War works pretty well, if done right. In the case of conflicts like Vietnam and Afghanistan, we were not allowed to win.
    Beyond that, it is sort of absurd to think that anyone is going to force the Afghans to become a western liberal democracy. If they want to become one, they have to do that themselves.

    There are many ways that the Afghanistan situation could have been handled in a safe, orderly, and honorable manner. There certainly was no advantage to leaving them an air force and so much top end night vision gear, communications equipment and weapons.

    1. Hey! That’s why Hunter Biden was paid the big Chinese bucks. We now have a POTUS who should have to register as a foreign agent.

    2. “There are many ways that the Afghanistan situation could have been handled in a safe, orderly, and honorable manner.”

      You should get one thing straight. America lost that war. It’s the winners who get to determine how safe, orderly and honorable the retreat is. All in all, America has been pretty lucky. It could have been a lot more nightmarish. The fact that you’re whinging about the night googles we left behind only makes that clearer.

      1. I was there when it was a war, and we were doing pretty good when we were allowed to shoot people and break stuff.

        When my Dad was younger, he was making a bomb run on a railyard near Hanoi. As he rolled over in a turn, he saw below him a line of Mig fighters on an enemy airfield. He was above them, with a load of bombs. If he had destroyed them, he would have lost his wings and probably ended up in a military prison. You were only allowed to shoot at them after you let them take off and attack you.

        Such situations are not military losses. They are political losses. When the civilian leadership imposes nonsensical rules that make it impossible to defeat the enemy, it just leads to a stalemate. The end result is a lot more suffering and death.

        When the Taliban was advancing from town to town towards Kabul, they traveled in huge convoys. When the Iraqis did that, we absolutely lit them up. We were allowed to engage them. But we have a system where, at any time, the CIC can order the military to drop their weapons and retreat.
        It is a good system, but only when the civilian leadership either has the diplomatic skills to avoid wars, or the will to win them when they cannot be avoided.

        “All in all, America has been pretty lucky.” I don’t know how it could have been handled much worse. One, we should have been out 15 years ago. Beyond that, when you plan to airlift your people out, you don’t first abandon your giant, well secured air base. Then, you evacuate the noncombatants instead of ordering the military to sneak out in the middle of the night. Maybe you coordinate with your allies. You certainly don’t leave a bunch of terrorists enough weapons to be one of the best equipped militaries in the world. A few months ago, they mostly drove around in old Toyota trucks with Soviet-era machine guns welded to them. Now they can hunt down the infidels and apostates with thermal optics from Black Hawk helicopters.
        They no longer need IEDs. They can use precision guided munitions.
        Just leaving any enemy that sort of thing goes against basic common sense, much less military strategy. Even the British disabled their gear left behind at Dunkirk, even though the Germans already had better stuff.

        1. “I don’t know how it could have been handled much worse.”

          The Taliban could have made the evacuation more troublesome. Same with the Afghan government. Same with ISIS. On the whole, the US was pretty lucky and escaped with far fewer casualties than were a possibility.

          The Taliban walked into Kabul unopposed. None of that US hardware made any difference.

          “It is a good system, but only when the civilian leadership either has the diplomatic skills to avoid wars, or the will to win them when they cannot be avoided. ”

          America did win the military side of it when they routed the Taliban out of Kabul within days. They lost the occupation by insisting on a divide and conquer strategy instead of bringing the tribes together.

  14. Grant won very few battles in the east, but persisted in driving Lee before him. Lee kept expecting Grant to back off like his predecessors had, but Grant persisted in persecuting Lee. Combined with Sherman’s Atlantic campaign and March to the Sea (both of which Grant approved as commanding general and both of which were only possible because of Grant’s victories in the western theater) achieved what no other general could have achieved, destruction of the enemy forces and an end to the war. At the start of the war the Eastern Generals believed the war should be fought as gentlemen, one decisive victory. This lead to prolonging the war as they either lost to Lee or failed to follow-up victories (Gettysburg and arguably Antietam). The Union won ultimately because they had a generals who recognized the importance of total war. First was Scott who proposed the Anaconda plan, which cut off the Confederacy from supplies. This required the combined arms of Naval and Army, to blockade the Confederate coast and cut the Mississippi. Grant was instrumental in this starting with the battles of Ft Henry and Ft Donelson, and culminating with his victory at Vicksburg (which arguably did more to turn the tide of the war than the concurrent victory of Gettysburg). The moral of the story is that Union won because of total war and Generals who were willing to prosecute it.
    Today our generals don’t or can’t prosecute total war. We once again have reverted to McClellan, Hooker, Mead, Pope etc who want to fight gentlemen’s wars and avoid casualties. And just as in the Civil War this just lengthens the wars and results in greater casualties (and generally more savagery as troops become aggravated by having to fight the same battles on the same ground over and over again). It is a sad state of affairs that in today’s military that people like Scott, Grant, Sherman, Sheridan or later Patton, Bradley, Nimitz etc probably can’t raise to the rank of General or Admiral. But then again it should be noted that Grant and Sherman both were civilians again when the Civil War broke outs that Grant couldn’t survive the peace time Army that followed after the end of the Mexican American War (and a number of the South’s best generals also couldn’t survive in the peace time Army, Jackson for example).
    No the lesson of the war on terror is the same one we didn’t learn in Korea or Vietnam, if you are going to fight a war it has to be total war with a clear aim for victory. If not then the war isn’t worth fighting.

    1. The same analysis mostly applies to the Mexican American War. Taylor believed in the one set piece battle that would force the Mexican’s to sue for piece. His campaign in Northern Mexico had tactical success but failed to achieve any strategic victories. It wasn’t until Scott invaded Vera Cruz and pushed Santa Anna back into Mexico City was victory achieved. And during his drive on Mexico City, Scott also somewhat suffered from the one critical battle disease. Many of his staff, and commanders, and even Scott himself to a degree thought that after Cerro Gordo, Santa Anna wouldn’t be able to field an army and would have to sue for peace. Cerro Gordo was a brilliant tactical victory, one of the finest examples of a flanking attack against a well dug in Army, but it failed to destroy Santa Anna’s Army, most of which, even though routed was able to escape and Scott gave Santa Anna time to pull them back together and to resist. Scott doesn’t bear the complete blame for this, as Washington was slow to send reinforcements and supplies forcing Scott to halt his march. Washington also interfered, trying to bribe Santa Anna into sueing for peace. So once again Washington interference and incompetence lengthened a war, and resulted in more casualties.

      1. Both Iraq and Afghanistan suffered similar problems. We failed to use enough troops to destroy the enemy in the field (in Afghanistan at Tora Bora and in Iraq north of Baghdad), we failed to cut off the enemies bases of resupply (in Afghanistan by not sealing the Pakastani border and in Iraq by not sealing the Syrian and Iranian borders, due mostly to not having enough troops to perform the missions) and Washington interference that kept changing the goals of the war, kept changing ROEs and propped up weak governments in failing nation building (which weren’t the first goals of either war). And another parallel to the Mexican American War, both required some form of COIN operations. Scott’s army suffered from guerilla warfare after Cerro Gordo, Scott answered by a strategy of what today would be hearts and minds, combined with aggressive counter insurgency. He first was quick to discipline any of his soldiers who committed crimes against the Mexican Civilians. He also forced his troops to respect Catholic church property and worship. He paid for his supplies (despite Washington directing him to take them forcefully from the local population) and he held the gentry financially culpable for any damage done by the guerillas. At the same time he launched an aggressive campaign, mostly by Dragoons (most notable Texas Rangers) to chase the guerillas and protect his supply routes. The Texas Rangers especially, were relentless in pursuing guerillas, and while some historians (and even some contemporaries at the time) faulted them for excesses, they greatly reduce the effectiveness of guerilla activities.

        1. Another parallel, especially to Iraq, was that the Mexican American War was a war of choice with less than popular support at home and abroad (the English especially). And another parallel is that Washington interfered with Mexico by allowing Santa Anna to regain control of the Mexican Government, in the hopes he would shorten the war, but in fact he lengthened the war.

  15. When someone says something “works,” it always helps to ask: “To what purpose?”

    Yes, war can destroy a tyrant and an aggressor, and it should when these threats come our way. However, war cannot build a culture or a society in which tyranny and aggression are unacceptable and undesireable and where freedom and peace are the norm. That takes peaceful effort on the part of the individuals concerned.

    And while war may at times be necessary to protect Life, Liberty, and Property, as Economist Henry Hazlitt’s “Broken Window” Fallacy demonstrates, war cannot and does not, on net, create prosperity for all of society, only prosperity for some at the expense of others.

    Even then, war is paid for by taxation and inflation and by human potential annihilated, so even those who “win” ultimately end up as losers.

    While it can never be ruled out or avoided entirely, war should definitely be a last resort of all options for freedom-loving people.

    1. Not necessarily. Chamberlain tried his best to avoid war at all costs. Germany was hardly ready for a war when it retook the Rhineland, or Austria or the Sudetenland. If Chamberlain (and the French) had stood up against Germany then, it would have arguably been a shorter war, with less casualties. But Chamberlain sought to avoid war, giving Hitler and Germany much needed time to build up the Wermacht and the Luftwaffe. Even after war was declared France and England sought a diplomatic end to the war and held their forces back to avoid casualties. Hitler took this time to further build up his still unprepared forces, until they were finally ready to launch the Spring 1940 French campaign which decimated the French forces and forced England into a humiliating retreat, until they were eventually forced to withdraw all forces back England. By avoiding war at all costs, Chamberlain arguably gambled away a short, quick victory and in turn created a six year long, bloody conflict that costs tens of millions of lives and spanned the globe.
      The American government was also guilty of the same. By adopting a stance of isolationism and neutrality, we failed to prepare for war. We failed to modernize our military, properly reinforce our Pacific holdings, increase the size of our military, especially Naval assets. This meant that when we finally we forced into the war, we were I’ll prepared for it, which resulted in heavy casualties and strategic setbacks through the first year of the war, which lengthened the war considerably. It took us three years before we reached maximum war production and nearly a year before we were able to launch effective offensive combat operations in any theater.

      1. An example of our failure to modernize the military was the fact that Marines went into Guadalcanal mainly armed with WW1 surplus such as water cooled .30 BMG and Springfield M1906 rifles, despite both officially having been replaced by lighter more mobile air cooled .30 BMG and the M1. In Africa our armored forces were initially armed with obsolete M2/M3 tanks, which were no match for the Nazi tanks of the era. The first M-4s didn’t start arriving until months into the invasion, and numbers were not enough to be effective.

        1. Our fighter aircraft were also mostly obsolete during the first two years of the war.

      2. ” Chamberlain arguably gambled away a short, quick victory and in turn created a six year long, bloody conflict that costs tens of millions of lives and spanned the globe.”

        The Allies never had their diplomatic ducks in a row until well into the war. The British were very reluctant to ally with the Soviets and without a united anti-german front, the allies weren’t serious about fighting the Germans. A lot of the British cabinet and elite would have been hard pressed to choose between the Nazis and the Bolsheviks as the greatest threat to Britain.

        1. A historically inaccurate analysis, because Germany was allied with the Soviets before the war started. It wasn’t until June of 1941 that the British could ally with the Soviets.

          1. And even before the non aggression pact the Soviets were not prepared to face German aggression and had little desire to, especially as they were involved in a low intensity border conflict with Japan. Additionally, even before the pact Germany and the Soviets had an existing treaty of neutrality since the 1920s that forbid either country from joining any alliance against the others. And Stalin also had an official policy of isolationism during the 1930s.

          2. “because Germany was allied with the Soviets before the war started.”

            Because the British and Soviets couldn’t form an alliance. Because of mutual lack of trust. It was only after the failure to make an alliance with Britain that the Soviets turned to Germany, and this despite a lack of mutual trust.

            “It wasn’t until June of 1941 that the British could ally with the Soviets.”

            They could have had an alliance in 1939 if both sides had more determination and trust with each other. Such an alliance could well have warned Hitler off Czechoslovakia. Without a united anti-german front, he waltzed in virtually unopposed.

            1. Wrong again. The negotiations began in 1938, and were meant to replace the neutrality treaty that was still in place since 1922 (which I referenced above). Additionally, Germany occupied the Sudetenland in 1938 not in 1939.

              1. In other words the German-Soviet neutrality pact had been in place for 16 years before Germany invaded Czechoslovakia and Stalin had no desire to break it because the Soviets weren’t ready for a war, he had an official policy of isolationism, and the Soviet economy was in the toilets. Additionally, the Soviets were involved in a low conflict border conflict with Japan and wasn’t prepared for a two front war, and Stalin was busy consolidating his power and was focused inward. Additionally, the Soviet backing of the Spanish Republic had drastically drained it’s resources. Stalin had no desire to break the pre-existing neutrality pact and every desire to strengthen it, and welcomed Ribbentrop’s first advances to strengthen/replace it in 1938.
                Even before 1938 the Soviet union was allowing the Luftwaffe and Wermacht to secretly train in the Soviet Union, in violation of the Versailles Treaty. Stalin also felt that the Western capitalists powers were a bigger threat and were also negotiating with Hitler to shift his focus east. Finally, Germany was one of the largest markets for Soviet products and Germany was a major contributor of technology to Stalin’s five year plan. In no way did the west have any leverage over Stalin to convince him to confront Germany.
                See also the Treaty of Rapallo 1922 and Treaty of Berlin 1926.

              2. “The negotiations began in 1938”

                The Soviets were in talks with the British and French as well, but they didn’t succeed. Because they weren’t ready to go to war on the Soviets’ behalf if it was invaded. The Soviets also managed to complete an agreement with Chiang Kai-Shek of China’s Nationalist Party, despite the fighting with Mao’s communist party, partly because Chiang feared the Soviets would make a pact with Imperial Japan carving up China between themselves.

                1. The talks with Britain and France were doomed from the start for all the reasons I laid out. Any reading of history saw that a Soviet-Western alliance was a mythical beast in the 1930s. Fuck even after Nazi Germany invaded the USSR, the alliance was almost always one-sided, the western allies supporting the Soviets while getting nothing in return. The Soviets forbid western bombers from landing in Soviet territory and detained any crews that had to land for emergency reasons, refused to declare war on Japan, detained Western POWs that they liberated from German POW camps, abused Soviet POWs that the western allies liberated, refused to coordinate military actions, refused to even let western allies know military strategies, lied about strength and losses to allies, all the while demanding western allies keep Soviet planners apprised of all Western campaigns, strengths and losses. For most of the USSR they even refused to acknowledge that the western allies had any part in defeating Germany. The best way to describe Soviet-Western relations even after June of 1941, isn’t allies but co-belligerents.

                  And Stalin only signed with Chiang because he was involved in a border conflict with Japan that broke out into open fighting in 1939. It was a treaty of convenience for both.

                  1. “It was a treaty of convenience for both.”

                    Yes, and I’m saying if Britain, France and the USSR had reached a treaty they may have stopped Hitler from invading Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain and his cabinet preferred dealing with Hitler. Stalin was prepared to sign with anyone: Hitler, the Japanese, the Chinese Nationalists, the British, as they were, except for far off Socialist Mongolia, all his enemies, he was anxious to get anything he could to postpone the inevitable conflict.

                    1. Bullshit, nothing in history shows that Stalin was ever willing to sign with th British and French. From 1933-1939 the bulk of his diplomatic endeavours were aimed almost exclusively at regaining German markets.

                    2. And the reason your analysis is wrong is because Stalin never saw an alliance with Britain and France as a means to avert conflict. He never believed they could contain Hitler. And he never even really wanted to contain Hitler. Instead he wanted to carve up central and Eastern Europe with Hitler.

            2. The Treaty of Berlin was renewed in 1931 and was ratified in 1933 and was registered with the League of Nations in 1935. Also, the declaration of Polish neutrality and the Balkans neutrality by England angered Stalin, who felt the east was his domain to rule.

              1. So despite worsening relations with Germany, Stalin needed the Germans more than he needed the west and conducted his foreign affairs accordingly. Under no conditions did Stalin see any need to back the western allies. Additionally, the western allies had sent troops to fight against the communist during the Russian civil war, therefore the Soviets saw the western allies as an enemy state.

                1. Stalin, like Lenin and a lot of Bolsheviks, was more of a Germanophile and viewed the British with suspicion.

                  “therefore the Soviets saw the western allies as an enemy state.”

                  Pretty much every country in the world except for socialist Mongolia could be viewed as an enemy state. But Stalin was not above sitting at a table across from them in an attempt to come to terms. He ironed out an agreement with Chiang despite the Nationalist’s massacre of communists, humiliating Stalin.

                  1. So in other words there was no chance for the British to get the Soviets on their side. Thank you for agreeing with me.

                    1. You misunderstand me. There was a chance. That’s why the talks took place. If both sides believed that an agreement was not possible or desirable, the talks wouldn’t have occurred.

                    2. No there wasn’t a realistic chance, only a hypothetical one that never could have actually occurred. There simply was to many stumbling blocks because of Stalin. It would have taken a great rewriting of history for there to have been any real chance.

      3. Well, I never said to avoid war at aol costs, only that it shouldn’t be the first resort and to use other options first. Naturally, one could still prepare for war at the same time.

        One option the West never used was economics. The big mistake the West made was sending foreign aid and investments to the Soviets during their New Economic Plan, as well as subsequently throughout the life of the Soviet Union. Had we refused to do so, the great Communist Experiment in the Soviet Union would haved died on the vine.

        And without Soviets to provide the Nazi war machine with both non-interference and raw materials such as coal, coke, oil, Iron, wheat, etc. the Nazi war machine couldn’t have advanced nearly as far as they did.

        As for France, the Maginot Line could have worked against the Nazis if the Line extended all the way across the border and into the forests that the Nazis used to breach France. Also, the French needed a Plan “B” to route and pincer the Nazis when they breached the Maginot Line.

        With both denial of aid and investment and with adequate military preparedness by all surrounding neighbors, both the Nazi and Soviet Totalitarian powers would never have gotten as far as they did and history would have been very different, most likely for the better.

        1. Once Hitler obtained power, there was no realistic diplomatic way to stop the war. You are correct that this is partially because of failure to prepare for war, but also because Hitler was bent on war, while England and France were bent on avoiding war. Diplomacy only works with belligerent powers like Nazi Germany, if you are willing to use war. Like Teddy Roosevelt stated “speak softly and carry a big stick”.

  16. As early as 1935 Stalin was trying to re-establish relations with Germany. Additionally, the British house of Commons felt that the Soviets were a bigger political threat than the Nazis, and that the purges of the Soviets rendered them useless as an ally. Germany also viewed the Soviet purges as a sign that the Soviets weren’t strong enough to be viewed as an enemy, and convinced Hitler to focus on the west and begin to soften his stance against the Soviets, allowing trade, which had decreased since 1933, to increase with the Soviets.
    In no world could Stalin have been convinced to join the western allies. And the British didn’t want a Soviet alliance and the French virtually ignored their Soviet alliance. This culminated in the 1938 Munich agreement and the subsequent declaration of Neutrality for Poland and the Balkans by the British. If anything Stalin from 1931 until 1939 worked harder to repair relations with Germany than he ever did do form relations with the Western Allies.

    1. Meant for Mtrueman.

    2. “In no world could Stalin have been convinced to join the western allies. ”

      The British and French weren’t about to accept him as an ally. The talks stalled because they wouldn’t agree to come to USSR’s aid if she was attacked. In the event on an invasion the British were only willing to go so far as consulting the League of Nations. Stalin turned his attentions elsewhere.

      1. So in other words there was no chance the Soviets would have sided with the British and French without a huge rewriting of history, so thank you for agreeing with me.

        1. “So in other words”

          You keep saying that. They’re your other words. My other words are different.

          1. Your other words are if we ignore all the real history, and all the real stumbling blocks (the biggest being Stalin himself) there was a chance. But in the real world there were to many differences and too many stumbling blocks for any real chance for the Soviets to side with the west against Germany prior to 1941. And even after 1941, the Soviets were really uncooperative allies, who took aid but refused to work with western allies and refused to give any aid to western military actions while demanding aid for Soviet military actions. The only person who seemed to trust the Soviets at all was FDR, which disgusted Churchill and most of FDRs generals. The best term for the Soviets was not allies but co-belligerents, as the Soviets refused to coordinate at all with the western allies while depending upon them for military support and goods. Stalin did everything in his powers to keep the western allies at arms length, even after 1941, and did everything possible to erase any western allies contribution to victory after the war. Hell, he even detained and refused to turn over western POWs initially after liberating them from German POW camps, and detained any Western Air Crews who landed in Soviet controlled territory.
            To think that a person who treated his “allies” like this after he was attacked, would have ever sided with the westerners before he was attacked is a pipedream, the stuff of poorly written fictional alternatives histories. It ignores the biggest reason Britain and France would never have been successful in getting the Soviets to side with them against Germany, Stalin. Maybe if Lenin had lived longer or if Trotsky had gained power instead of Stalin there might have been a chance, but there was never a realistic chance once Stalin took over. Anyone who studies history understands that. It had nothing to do with Britain not having her ducks in a row, and everything to do with Stalin’s personality and policies.

            1. And even if British delegates managed to overcome Stalin’s personality and got him to agree, it would never have been approved by the British House of Commons. And Stalin as head of state had a lot to do (almost exclusively) with the House of Commons hostility to a Soviet alliance.

              1. ” it would never have been approved by the British House of Commons.”

                Doesn’t that depend on the substance of the agreement? Parliament was willing to do almost anything to forestall war. Even the Munich agreement with Hitler was favorably received.

                1. No, the House of Commons was vocal in it’s opposition to ANY treaty with Stalin, from the get go. This frustrated French diplomats and British diplomats. But the French which already had an agreement with the Soviets, although it was mostly ignored, were unable to find a bridge between the British and Soviets. And the French made no qualms about one of the largest stumbling blocks was the British House of Commons refusing before talks even began, to approve any, ANY, treaty with Stalin and the Soviets.

                  1. “No, the House of Commons was vocal in it’s opposition to ANY treaty with Stalin, from the get go. ”

                    That was their mistake, trusting Hitler over Stalin. Look where it got them. Embroiled in a lengthy European conflict from which they never truly recovered.

                    1. Kind of destroys your hypothesis that there ever was a realistic chance for Chamberlain to develop a diplomatic way to avoid war.

            2. ” if we ignore all the real history”

              But we’re not ignoring real history. There were indeed talks between the British and French and the Soviets before the pact with Germany was signed. Had an anti-german front been established with the Soviets, the war could well have been avoided, or maybe not who can say. But the British elite were divided on the issue. Many influential cabinet members were far more sympathetic to Hitler and the Nazis than the USSR. They were aristocrats, lords, and hated the communists who had treated the Russian aristocracy abominably. Hitler was far more deferential and even garnered support from members of the British royal family who had to be packed off to Bahamas by the government for fear of their pro Nazi meddling.

              Chamberlain’s miscalculation was to take his chances with an agreement with Hitler rather than reaching an agreement with the USSR.

              1. You ignored every piece of information I have provided that contradicts this post. The Soviets were not negotiating in good faith. Stalin had no desire to sign an agreement with the British and French. Almost his entire diplomatic aims from 1933-1939 were focused on repairing relations with Germany. The British House of Commons said even before negotiations started between England France and the Soviets that they would not approve any treaty with the Soviets. Stalin hated the British and French far more than he hated Hitler (actually, there is little evidence prior to 1941 that Stalin had any antipathy towards Hitler, albeit the reverse was not the case). You even admitted Stalin was a Germanophile. And much evidence that Stalin viewed Germany and Italy as fellow socialists. And the biggest stumbling block was the fact Stalin was already planning on stabbing the British and French in the back by opening secret negotiations with Nazi Germany. Something he had been trying to do since 1933. His aim was to divide up eastern and central Europe with Nazi Germany and that had been his goals since 1933. Stalin needed Germany, he never needed the British or the French, they couldn’t offer him anything to change this fact. And this is well evidenced by the fact that even while taking foreign aid from France and Britain he continued diplomatic overtures towards Hitler. The only reason the pact didn’t happen until 1939 was because Hitler refused. Stalin never gave up, and never seriously gave any credence to his negotiations with Britain and France, instead focusing on his concurrent negotiations with Germany. It is pretty basic Stalin didn’t want to form an alliance with Britain and France but he did want one with Germany. And he made that abundantly clear from the time Hitler took power in 1933 until the pact was signed in 1939. And if you looked at a map of pre-World War 2 Germany, you can see why an alliance with Germany was much more desirable by the Soviets than one with France and Britain. East Prussia extended clear across the Southern Baltic Coast and bordered a number of Soviet provinces, including the bread basket of Soviet Union, the Ukraine. You have ignored the economic reasons. Stalin’s hostility to the west, will you also ignore geographical reasons (and strategic) now also why Stalin didn’t want an alliance with the western powers but craved one with Germany?
                And the final argument, which I have also made multiple times and which you ignore, but was even after Stalin was forced to accept an alliance with the west, he never cooperated with western allies and quite often treated them as adversaries.

                1. ” Almost his entire diplomatic aims from 1933-1939 were focused on repairing relations with Germany.”

                  Stalin had talks with the Germans, the British, the French, the Chinese and the Japanese. He was desperate for anything that would postpone the conflict.

                  1. God you are a broken record.

                    1. The facts speak for themselves. And they bear repeating. The allies had a chance to stop Hitler before he really got started had they formed an anti Nazi front with the USSR instead of putting their faith in Hitler.

                      Meanwhile, Stalin was desperate to stall for time and some agreement with one or more of his enemies was his chosen method. The British had their chance but their trust in Hitler led them in another direction.

              2. And one more nail I your theory is that Russia was the only country that surrendered to Germany in World War 1, something Stalin was well aware of. The French and British alliance with Russia did nothing to benefit Russia, whose forces were decimated by German forces, while it greatly benefitted the French and British by tying up German armies in East Prussia. About the only benefit Russia had gotten from the alliance was that it prolonged the defeat of Russian forces. If Germany had been able to concentrate against Russia, Russia would have still lost, just lost a lot quicker. The map of Germany and the Soviets hadn’t changed much since 1918. Britain and France were a long ways away while Germany was next door. Stalin could read a map as well as anyone and knew well how the last Franco-Anglo-Russo alliance had worked out for Russia. He also knew that German Navy controlled the Baltic and could easily block off the few ice free harbors the Soviets had outside their Black sea ports.
                Simply put there was no strategic value to an alliance with France and England in Stalin’s opinion, but there was in an alliance with Germany.

                1. And one more thought, is that you keep saying the British could have offered something to Stalin to change his mind but you aren’t able to provide any examples of what Britain had that Stalin wanted. So in other words it is entirely speculative and hypothetical. Whereas I have listed a plethora of things Stalin wanted (and got until June of 1941) from Germany. Your hypothesis relies on some hypothetical offering, whereas my theory (because it actually was tested) lists a plethora of benefits for the Soviets and Stalin to avoid an alliance with England and France in favor of an alliance with Germany. Which is why Stalin had sought one since 1933, and even after relations with Germany turned sour the Soviets ratified the renewal of the Treaty of Berlin and offered it to the League of Nations and Stalin continued to focus on improving relations not with Britain and France but with Germany almost exclusively for 6 years.

                  1. Simply said Stalin desired an alliance with Germany, he was forced into an alliance with Britain.

                    1. Stalin pursued an alliance with many of the powers, Germany included. I never denied that. Chamberlain put more faith in his arrangements with Hitler than serious cooperation with the USSR. That was his biggest mistake.

                    2. Stalin didn’t really pursue an alliance with the great powers. Britain and France reached out to Stalin, Stalin reached out to Germany, that shows where his desire laid. You keep ignoring that fact.

  17. I agree with you:
    Sieges can be gruesome – especially for civilians.
    A good modern example are the blockades by Israel and Egypt on Gaza against the terrorist group Hamas since 2007.
    Those blockades mainly impact Gaza’s civilian population that has had to endure increasing levels of squalor.
    Unfortunately the blockades are deemed necessary by both Egypt and Israel to protect their own populations against attacks from Hamas and so probably won’t be lifted soon.
    Blockades are in essence sieges.
    Like you said:
    Sieges attempt to deny, or at least reduce, an enemy’s ability to wage war.
    Which is exactly what attritional war is.
    Attritional war strategies and tactics have been widely used througout Western history.
    It is not, by a long shot, an “Eastern” form of warfare.

    1. “It is not, by a long shot, an “Eastern” form of warfare.”

      Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese strategist tells us that besieging a walled city (Gaza) is the lowest, least desirable form of warfare and any general worth his stars should avoid it.

      1. Then Sun Tzu is wrong. Siege warfare is a way for an aggressor to successfully take a strongly defended position without risking the high casualties of a direct assault. Generally speaking the casualties, especially civilian would be higher in a direct assault then in a siege. Reducing strong fortifications requires extensive use of Artillery, followed by an infantry assault, which piles up the collateral damage. Far greater than a siege would.

        1. “Then Sun Tzu is wrong. ”

          You should read him before you casually dismiss him. For Sun Tzu the highest, most desirable form of warfare was to win over the opposing army and its equipment without fighting. This can be achieved by diplomatic maneuvering. No use of artillery, extensive or not. No infantry assault, no collateral damage, all of which inevitably lead to casualties and destruction of war material, which Sun Tzu advised against when possible.

      2. And how, pray tell, has this got anything to do with my answer?
        You’re a fan of Sun Tzu.
        We get it.
        By the way, Kemosabe, who’s this We?
        Never met him.

    2. Attritional warfare suggests a strategy aimed at reducing the manpower of your enemy, not it’s ability to fight. A war of attrition is one in which the aim is trade casualties with your opponent with the idea you can absorb more casualties than your enemy. That is the opposite of what a siege is. A siege is aimed at denying resources. Any casualties are simply a byproduct of denying resources.

  18. Reducing the liberties of civilians is a way in which war works wonderfully and sometimes permanently!

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